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Top 30 World Changing Events of the
20th Century

10. Nazi Holocaust Exposed to the World (1945)

As American soldiers liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, they
encounterd survivors who looked like walking skeletons.  Most prisoners had lost at
least 40% of their body weight.  Soldiers began to report the atrocities committed by the
Nazis, particularly against Jews at Buchenwald and other camps liberated by Allied
troops.  An estimated 6 million Jews died in the Nazi Holocaust, although
maintain that the definition of the Holocaust should also include the Nazis' systematic
murder of millions of people in other groups, including ethnic Poles, the Romani,
Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, people with disabilities, homosexuals,
Jehovah's Witnesses, and other political and religious opponents.   By this definition, the
total number of Holocaust victims would be between 11 million and 17 million


9. DNA Discovered (1953)

In 1953, biologists James Watson and Francis Crick discovered that DNA is a "double helix
polymer” that looks like a twisted rope-ladder.  They found that DNA is a
nucleic acid that
contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living
The discovery demonstrated that DNA is the most basic genetic material and led to
new medical technologies and ethical controversies over genetic engineering.  It has also created
forensic science and criminal technology advances.



8. New Polio Vaccine Works (1953)

Polio is an acute viral infectious disease that spreads from person to person, primarily via the
fecal-oral route.  It was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century. 
year thousands of children suffered from polio.  In many cases, the disease left the children
paralyzed and condemned some to life with an iron lung.  It even affected U.S. president Franklin
D. Roosevelt.  On March 27, 1953, a University of Pittsburgh team discovered a vaccine that
effectively combated the disease.  The vaccine
has eradicated polio from most countries in the


7. Women's Suffrage in the U.S. (1920)

In 1920, The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified.  It
prohibited discrimination in voting based on sex.  One hundred and forty-four years
after the birth of the republic, American women were given the right to vote.  It was a
giant step in the women’s civil rights movement of the 20th century.


6. JFK Assassinated (1963)

The most influential and shocking assassination of the 20th century was John F.
Kennedy.  On Nov. 22, 1963, President Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas, Texas.  World
news and television covered the events surrounding the assassination and the president's
funeral nonstop for weeks. The man accused of the assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald,
was shot dead Nov. 24, 1963, on national TV.  Kennedy’s death greatly influenced U.S.
national and foreign policies.  It remains one of the most controversial events in history,
with many conspiracy theories surrounding the incident.


5. Penicillin Discovered (1928)

Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi.  Penicillin antibiotics are
historically significant because they are the first drugs that were effective against many previously
serious diseases such as syphilis and Staphylococcus infections.  In 1928,
Sir Alexander Fleming
discovered the drug, which counteracted harmful bacteria.  Fleming made the discovery by
accident when he contaminated a bacteria culture with a "Penicillium notatum" mold.  He noticed
that the non-toxic mold halted the bacteria's growth, and later conducted experiments to show
penicillin's effectiveness in combating a wide spectrum of harmful bacteria.


4. The First Human Flight (1903)

The Wright brothers are two Americans credited with inventing and building the world's
first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier
than air human flight
.  On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright flew a 750-pound
aircraft, powered by a gasoline engine across the sand hills of Kitty Hawk, N.C.  He
traveled 120 feet.  Orville’s brother Wilbur would later stay aloft for 59 seconds.  It was
the first time a powered machine left the ground.  Today, air travel has become a
common and essential aspect of society.


3. Japan Bombs Pearl Harbor (1941)

On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes bombed the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in
The attack consisted of two aerial waves totaling 353 aircraft, launched from six Japanese
aircraft carriers.  The attack sank four U.S. Navy battleships and damaged four more.  The
Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, destroyed 188 aircraft, and

caused personnel losses of 2,402 killed and 1,282 wounded.  It was some of the biggest news of
and instantly flashed across the world via radio.  The United States declared war on Japan,
so Germany declared war on the United States on Dec. 11, 1941.  America, along with every other
major power in the world, was now in World War II and ready to help beat down the Axis


2. Man on the Moon (1969)

The United States Apollo 11 mission was the first crewed spaceflight to land on the moon.  It
launched on July 16, 1969 and on July 20 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the
first people to walk on the moon. 
The mission fulfilled U.S. President John F. Kennedy's goal of
reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s, which he had expressed during a speech given on
May 25, 1961. 
Armstrong's first words after he set foot on Earth's only natural satellite was
"that's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."  In the following years a series of
U.S. manned missions reached the moon, although many claim the moon landing is shrouded with


1. The Atomic Age Begins (1945)

There is little doubt that the most influential and important story of the 20th century is the nuclear
bombings of the Japanese cities
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 
At 9:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, a U.S.
bomber dropped a nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.  Hiroshima was instantly
destroyed and fires engulfed the city.  The bomb instantly killed 60,000 people with relatively few
of them being soldiers.  Three days later another nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki,
combined the bombs
killed as many as 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki by
the end of 1945.  Six days after the detonation over Nagasaki, on August 15, Japan announced its
surrender to the Allied Powers, signing the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, officially
ending the Pacific War and therefore World War II.  Germany had signed its unavoidable
Instrument of Surrender on May 7, ending the war in Europe.



Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted Sept. 26, 2009